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Cache hunters are invited to gather for the annual geocaching challenge Aug. 22-23 as part of this year’s Northwest Art & Air Festival.

A “meet and greet” will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the balloon staging area at Timber-Linn Memorial Park. Saturday’s challenge begins at 10 a.m. at the same location and lasts until 6 p.m.

Commemorative “coins” for those who complete the challenge will be handed out from 3 to 6 p.m. at Pizza King in downtown Albany. A prize drawing will be held during that time as well.

Admission to all events is free, although there is a charge for parking at Timber-Linn after 4 p.m. Organizer Don Bacher said no one should have to pay for parking Saturday because they will be in the park for only a limited time.

All that’s necessary to participate is a GPS device into which the user can enter a series of coordinates. A handheld GPS or a phone with a GPS or geocaching app will be needed. Participants will need to be able to input the coordinates for 20 locations. An earlier story incorrectly stated the number of locations required for the event.

Similar to a scavenger hunt, geocaching is an activity that allows hunters to seek the secret location of a “cache” using only its latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates.

Sometimes, the cache involves a small, tangible item. At the Art & Air Festival, hunters will seek a particular location and then must correctly answer a trivia question to prove they’ve found it.

South Albany High School graduate Jessica Dilbone, Bacher’s granddaughter, designed this year’s commemorative coin, which is shaped like a hot air balloon.

Newcomers to the activity are always welcome, Bacher said. “In fact, there are quite a few newbies attending this year. A few have even indicated that this will be their first challenge event. We’ve seen a significant increase in new geocaching names this year.”

He recommends at least some practice with manual input of coordinates first, however. “We try to help where we can, but sometimes it’s not easy. Especially if they have a device that is new for us as well.”

Bacher said he’s noticed a definite increase in participation since the geocaching challenge began in 2011. He’s expecting participants this year from as far away as Seattle.

“The last three years we’ve ordered 150 coins, and every year we have fewer left. We had only 14 after last year’s event,” he said. “Because there are so many new geocachers in the area this year and because so many previous attendees have had us on their schedule since last year’s event, we added 25 more coins for this year. If feedback means anything, we may not have enough coins even with the increase.”

Folks don’t have to worry about missing out, however. For the first time this year, the meet and greet following the challenge will include a prize drawing from a number of local businesses.

“It’s been a great way to showcase Albany and its business community,” Bacher said. “Hopefully we can continue doing this for a long time.”

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Jennifer Moody is the education reporter for the Democrat-Herald. She can be reached at 541-812-6113 or jennifer.moody@lee.net.

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